Leon Trotsky

The Anarcho-Syndicalist Prejudices Again!

(May 1923)

COMRADE Louzon’s latest article contains even more errors than his earlier articles, though this time his main line of argument takes an entirely different turn.

In his earlier articles, Comrade Louzon’s starting points were abstractions which assumed that the trade unions represented the “working class as a whole!” In my reply I put the question: “Where does Comrade Louzon write his articles – in France or on Sirius?” In his latest article Comrade Louzon deserts the shaky foundation of universal laws and attempts to stand upon the national ground of French syndicalism. Yes, he says, the French trade unions are not actually the working class as a whole, but only the active minority of the working class. That is, Comrade Louzon acknowledges that the trade unions form a sort of revolutionary party. But this syndicalist party is distinguished by being purely proletarian in it constituents; here lies its tremendous advantage over the Communist Party. And it has still another advantage: the syndicalist party categorically rejects the bourgeois state institutions; it does not “recognise democracy, and thus takes no part in the parliamentary struggles.

Comrade Louzon never tires of repeating that we are dealing with the peculiarities of French development and with these only. Beginning with a broad generalisation, in the course of which he transformed Marx into a syndicalist Louzon now sets England, Russia, and Germany apart. He does not reply to our question on why he himself belongs to the Communist International, in company with the small English Communist Party, and not to the Second International, in company with the English trade unions and the English Labour Party which is supported by them. Louzon began with a “supra-historical law for all countries, and closes by claiming an exceptional law for France. In this new form Louzon’s theory bears a purely national character. More than this, its essential character excludes the possibility of an International: How can common tactics be spoken of unless there are common fundamental premises? It is certainly very difficult to understand why Comrade Louzon belongs to the Communist International. It is no less difficult to understand why he belongs to the French Communist Party, since there exists another party possessing all the advantages of the Communist and none of its drawbacks.

But though Comrade Louzon leaves international ground for the sake of national, he systematically ignores that “national” question put to him in our former article: What about the role played by the CGT during the war? The role played by Jouhaux was by no means less treacherous and despicable than that played by Renaudel. The sole difference consisted in the fact that the social patriotic party arranged its views and actions in accordance with a certain system, while the trade union patriots acted purely empirically and veiled their actions in wretched and stupid improvisations. It may be said that as regards patriotic betrayal, the socialist party, with its definite character, surpassed the semi-definite syndicalist party. At bottom, Jouhaux was at one with Renaudel.

And how is it today? Does Louzon desire the union of the two confederations? We desire it. The International deems it necessary. We should not be alarmed even if the union were to give Jouhaux the majority. Naturally we would not say – as does Comrade Louzon – that syndicalism, although headed by Jouhaux, Dumoulin, Merrheim and their like, is the purest form of proletarian organisation, that it embodies “the working class as a whole,” etc., etc. – for such a phrase would be a travesty of the facts. But we should consider the formation of a larger trade union organisation, that is, the concentration of greater proletarian masses, forming a wider battlefield for the struggle for the ideas and tactics of Communism, to be a greater gain for the cause of revolution. But for this the first necessity is that the ideas and tactics of Communism do not remain in. midair, but are organised in the form of a party. With regard to Comrade Louzon, he does not pursue his thoughts to the end, but his logical conclusion would be the substitution of the party by a trade union organisation of the “active minority.” The inevitable result of this would be a substitute party and substitute trade union, for those trade unions required by Comrade Louzon are too indefinite for the role of a party, and too small for the role of a trade union.

Comrade Louzon’s arguments to the effect that the trade unions do not want to soil their fingers by contact with the organs of bourgeois democracy, already form a weak echo of anarchism. It may be assumed that the majority of the workers organised in the CGTU will vote at the elections for the Communist Party (at least we hope that Comrade Louzon, as a member of the Communist Party, will call upon them to do so), while the majority of the members of the yellow confederation will vote for the Blum-Renaudel party. The trade union, as a form of organisation, is not adapted for parliamentary struggle, but the workers organised in the trade unions will nevertheless have their deputies. It is simply a case of division of labour on the same class foundation. Or is it perchance a matter of indifference to the French worker what happens in parliament? The workers do not think so. The trade unions have frequently reacted to the legislative work of parliament and will continue to do so in the future. And if there are, at the same time, Communist deputies in parliament itself, who work hand in hand with the revolutionary trade unions against the deeds of violence and blows of imperialist “democracy,” this is naturally a plus and not a minus. French “tradition” says that deputies are traitors. But the Communist Party has been called into being for the express purpose of doing away with all tradition. Should any deputy think of retreating from the class line, he will be thrown out of the party. Our French party has learned how to do this, and all distrust in it is completely unfounded.

But Louzon complains that the party contains many petty-bourgeois intellectuals. This is so. But the Fourth Congress of the Communist International recognised and adopted resolutions on this, and the resolutions have not been without effect. Further work is required to establish the proletarian character of the party. But we shall not attain this end with the self-contradictory trade union metaphysics of Comrade Louzon, but rather by means of systematic party work in the sphere of the trade unions, and in every other sphere of proletarian struggle. ‘Mere is already a considerable number of workers in the Central Committee of our French party. This is mirrored in the whole party. The same tendency is at work, in accordance with the resolutions passed by the Fourth Congress, in the parliamentary and municipal elections. By this the party will win the confidence of the revolutionary proletariat. And this means that the party will less and less lack really competent and active proletarians to occupy the most important and responsible revolutionary posts. I greatly fear that Comrade Louzon’s views may exercise a retarding influence on this profound progressive evolution of the vanguard of the French working class. But I have no doubt that Communism will succeed in overcoming this obstacle, like all others.

Moscow, May 8, 1923

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Last updated on: 3.3.2007